Should you take a hop on, hop off tour bus?
When we venture into a new city, many of us hope to disguise our status as tourists. We don’t want to be seen as a “touron”, a term that I saw on Matt Long’s blog, Landlopers. According to the Urban Dictionary, a touron is “any person who, while on vacation, commits an act of pure stupidity”.
So we wisely avoid tourist traps, try to blend in with locals and be good, responsible travelers. We do research about the must-see attractions, read up ahead of time about local culture and etiquette (what to wear, what to eat, how much to tip, etc.) But if it is your first visit to a particular city or perhaps you’re a solo traveler wanting to start out cautiously, I have a recommendation that will immediately identify you as a tourist and I don’t want you to be embarrassed.
Hop On Hop Off
Get on one of those “hop on hop off” tour buses for a couple of hours (no longer than that)! You don’t even have to do any hopping at all – just sit down, look around and get a feel for the city. You’ll be surprised at how it will improve your navigational skills as you spend the rest of your visit exuding confidence as you walk for miles around town experiencing this new place. Maybe you’ve seen these double-decker buses maneuvering through busy streets of major cities while a guide on a loud speaker is describing the sights and sometimes the history of a place. You may have even wished you were on one, but didn’t want to give yourself away as a tourist. I’ve done this in London, Dublin, Toronto, Boston and a few other places and was glad that I did.
Another no-regrets reason to spend a couple of hours on a tour bus would be if your goal is to make sure you see the main sites and have only a short period of time. And once I hopped on one of these buses because after hours of walking I had major blisters, but had so much more I wanted to see that day.
But don’t stay on all day! Be sure that your use of the tour buses is to maximize your visit, not to take away from the real travel experience. The best way to enjoy a city and discover its uniqueness is to get on your feet and walk, ride the metros or subways, and eat, drink and shop with the locals. Nobody is going to recognize you as “the tourist who got on the bus” — as long as you don’t act like a touron!
Here are a few views from the bus!
New York City
Windsor and Eton, England
This is a great tip — and I learned a new word! Confidence is definitely something that thwarts that “I’m a tourist” look, and it’s easier to appear confident if you know where you’re going.
More important than not looking like a “touron” is staying safe. In big cities, tourists are often targets for pickpocketing and other crimes. If you’re walking with your suitcase or camera in hand (or anything else that might indicate your status as an outsider), be extra aware of your surroundings.
I totally agree with this! I was so against sightseeing buses because I feared I’d be labeled a “touron”. But then Mom & I traveled to Washington, DC, and she wanted to do the tour bus thing, so I gave in. I’m so glad I did. It was well worth the time and money. We got to see the highlights, and then pick out the places we wanted to visit again to spend more time. Great post!
A ‘Touron’, love it, that’s a new one on me! No shame in using hop on buses I think, it’s a pretty good way to get yr bearings on the first day in a new city, even if they are stupidly overpriced in some. Good to explore on foot after that though. I try to do that as much as poss. Also as my partner has epilepsy we need to avoid metro escalators.
I’ve never done one but I’ve often thought about it as a great way to introduce myself to a city. In fact, I should really do one in Toronto as I’d probably learn a lot about my home city.
The Toronto tour is a really good one. Taking one of these tours in your own hometown really isn’t a bad idea sometimes. I took one in Chicago (my home town) a few years ago with a friend. It was kind of nice just to sit back, relax and see the city from a different perspective.
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